With the first significant snowfall coming over the weekend and the recent onslaught of songs like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night” on every radio station, it appears that the real holiday season is finally upon us. In the coming weeks, don’t be surprised to hear sleigh bells echoing in your ears and the noise of overzealous cash registers mid-transaction. It all comes with the territory, because, after all, that is what the season is all about. That’s why every commercial industry stands taught with anticipation on the eve of Nov. 1, eagerly awaiting the time when that pesky late October scare-fest is over and it can get on to what really matters: giant Santas and icicle-strewn Christmas trees.

Everyone knows that the holidays are over-publicized and that the season is drawn out to ridiculous lengths, but what I want to know is why the average American citizen acknowledges it and then, at the same time, complains about the fact that Lowe’s has already put on display its reindeer scenes in September? While I know that hypocrisy runs deep through the veins of American society, I could never believe that the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons have fallen to pure commercialism. Even though I come from a family that doesn’t really own up to any sacred affiliation and that avoids religious conversation like the plague during the holiday season because of the arguments that would undoubtedly ensue, I still feel that this season offers more than just clearance racks and ugly sweaters depicting reindeer scenes.

Being a moral and optimistic human being, I need to look for the best in people. I need to believe that we hold on to this season for as long as we can, because it is an escape from the endless disputes about war and our ozone layer. I need to find solace in the fact that those people who ring a bell and ask for donations outside grocery stores are doing that because they know, as I do, people care just a little bit more during the holiday season. And because of these hopeful notions, I can’t hate the fact that Santas arrive in stores before October, because it also means the advent of selflessness in people in place of the more traditional American narcissism.

I understand that this idea may be considered na’ve: Christmas has become nothing more than a marketing ploy, an extremely profitable endeavor that adds girth to commercialism’s bank account. Nonetheless, the fact that companies are able to sell holiday retail earlier and earlier indicates that people must be buying them earlier and earlier. And while I’m sure everyone has his or her reasons for buying those miniature dancing Santas in August, I’d like to think that it is because of a simple desire people have to be the person they will be come December. The fact that a little man in a red suit inspires people to be their best, while sad, is something I will gladly take as an alternative to the more common stance of indifference that generally floods our culture.

It may seem unreasonable to appreciate this holiday because it is only a short distraction from a reality that should be our focus, but I love the fact that, for once, our news is filled with features offering hope to the greater population, as opposed to delivering stories about disease and tragedy. For a couple months out of the year, we appreciate an altruistic story instead of one depicting death. And it’s nice to see, in a culture where the indicted juiced-up baseball player and the omnipresent scare tactics generally grab our news headlines, an article depicting virtues we all strive to embody. After all, much more than a star on top of a tree or a 10-pound ham, that is what the holiday season is all about.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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